The Cobb County Board of Education voted 4-3 near the end of a 3½-hour meeting Thursday night to let Superintendent Michael Hinojosa raise money to support the hiring of up to 25 Teach for America teachers for the 2013-14 school year.
Northeast Cobb’s school board members split on the proposal. Post 5’s David Banks joined Chairman Scott Sweeney, Vice Chairman David Morgan and Lynnda Eagle in the majority.
Post 4’s Kathleen Angelucci joined Alison Bartlett and Tim Stultz in voting no.
Hinojosa and Morgan were the leading advocates of the TFA proposal, which sparked strong opposition from the Cobb County Association of Educators.
“The members who just voted for TFA sold out the teachers in Cobb,” CCAE President Connie Jackson said. “The message just sent to Cobb County teachers on the back of cutting 350 teaching positions, increasing class sizes, eliminating elementary parapros and taking away our step raise, it is disgusting. It also isn't addressing the real issue."
Angelucci called the proposal "appalling" and "a slap in the face" to current Cobb teachers. "You wouldn't choose a physician that went through a six-week boot camp. You wouldn't choose an attorney that went through a six-week boot camp. I think that to degrade the professionalism and the teaching profession in general is just an absolute shame, and I do not support this in any way."
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Jackson said Teach for America is “a Band-Aid for a gaping open wound. I hope the people that voted for it understand that all they're doing is pretending to care about the achievement gap."
That gap has driven Morgan’s arguments for TFA.
He began speaking about TFA as an alternative solution to the district's achievement gap at a March 2011 town-hall meeting.
"It is our job to make sure we augment our talent pool in giving another option to educate our children. … I don't know how that indicts, undermines or fundamentally erodes a teacher," Morgan said.
To hire TFA teachers, the board established four conditions at its May 9 work session:
- No more than 25 TFA teachers will be allowed.
- Principals will have the final say on which teachers they bring into their schools.
- TFA teachers may not displace Cobb teachers.
- TFA teachers will be evaluated against established metrics.
South Cobb has been the focus of TFA discussions, but Hinojosa said Thursday night that he wants to make TFA teachers available to schools across the county.
The money Hinojosa raises will pay for the five-week training TFA teachers get before entering the classroom and their ongoing training during their two-year commitment.
"We're sitting here talking about costs, increased costs to the district. … Teach for America will add to that cost and attrition,” Angelucci said. “So we're willing to take that on to implement a program that's not absolutely guaranteed?"